5 February 2019
Table of contents
If you are considering becoming a truck driver, or are simply curious about the profession, you are probably wondering what life as a truck driver on the road is like. Although the profession itself is critical to our modern society by facilitating the efficient movement of goods, very few people take the time to think about what the job is like. In this article, we’ll explore a day in the life of a truck driver. While the open road may appeal to you, trucking does have challenges that include long hours of service, time away from home, and difficulty accessing healthy food.
Get an early start
If you follow along with a truck driver, you’ll quickly learn that most of them like to get an early start. You can expect to get up and get on the road anywhere between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m., although the actual time will depend on the specific driver and the requirements of the job.
Drivers will check the weather and route conditions before getting on the road. An inspection of the truck and completion of any required logs will also be done prior to getting on the road.
Once on the road, truck drivers are often held to a tight schedule. This means that truck drivers must stay constantly alert for potential delays, such as slow vehicles or accidents. Some things, such as dangerous weather and equipment failure, are outside of the driver’s control. Still, there is an expectation that the delivery will be made according to schedule, so truck drivers must make every effort to get their shipments to their destination on time. Carriers aren’t the only ones with an interest in how long truck drivers spend on the road. Federal regulations limit the amount of time a driver can be on the road to 11 hours. This places further pressure on the truck driver to complete their route in a limited window.
Truck drivers typically work fairly long days. The actual length of the workday can vary depending on the route and availability of rest areas and food, upon the destination, weather, traffic, or other road hazards. Legally, the Department of Transportation allows OTR drivers to drive up to a maximum of 11 hours per day, all of which must be completed within a 14-hour window. This means that truck drivers may work up to 11 hours per day, but any driving completed over that limit will incur substantial penalties. If you have roughly nine hours of actual driving time per day, your actual time spent on the road can be quite a bit more. You may end up taking one or more breaks during the day for food or rest at a truck stop, which can lengthen your workday. Keep in mind that truck drivers earn money only when they are driving, so taking more breaks than necessary can not only lengthen your day but cut into your profitability.
Long haul or over the road (OTR) drivers are on the road for a lot of time, especially in their first year. Many trucking companies give preferential rates to long-haul drivers, but the lifestyle can be difficult for new drivers, especially when you can’t see your family members.
Once evening is approaching, a truck driver has already spent a substantial amount of time on the road. By evening the trucker will be looking for a place to pull off and rest. If their truck is equipped with a sleeper they’ll spend the night in the truck. Otherwise, they will need to have access to facilities where they can rest. Typically, a truck driver will get some food, call home, and go to sleep for the evening. Come morning, they’ll start the cycle again.
Putting it all together
Taken together, a day in the life of a truck driver can be challenging. Truck drivers typically have a long workday that starts early and ends late. In the middle, they are on the road most of the time, up to a maximum of 11 hours a day. Their workday consists of tight schedules that must be met, with an ever-present risk of delay due to a variety of events. Throughout their day, truck drivers must maintain a constant state of awareness. Due to the fact that most truck drivers are paid for the time, they are actually driving, there is constant pressure to get back on the road when you do take a break.
A day in the life of a truck driver is also a largely solitary day. Truck drivers spend the majority of their day alone, without other human interaction. Most truck drivers connect with their families when they are on a break for lunch or at the end of the evening.
However, this relatively small amount of human interaction can be challenging for many truck drivers. The largely solitary nature of truck driving jobs is one of the reasons that the trucking industry as a whole is struggling to bring in new CDL drivers for trucking. A second reason for this is long hours and limited home time. Professional drivers spend days or even weeks away from home at a time, which results in challenges for young drivers that are raising a family.
Although the life of a truck driver can be challenging, there are some great benefits associated with the profession. Truck driving remains one of the best paying professions for non-college-educated individuals and has a relatively low barrier to entry for most. While wage growth for truck drivers has lagged behind other industries in the past two decades, employers are beginning to steadily increase wages in an effort to retain current employees and entice new people to enter the field amid a driver shortage.
On top of this, many carriers are addressing some of the most difficult aspects of the job in order to make it more palatable for drivers. This includes better routing to keep drivers closer to home and more flexible delivery and pickup windows. There are pros and cons to every profession, and driving trucks is no exception. Still, understanding a day in the life of a trucker informs both those aspiring to be truck drivers, as well as all of the rest of us that rely on their hard work every day.